'There's no crabmeat in heaven.'
So you've come back to life, and the first thing you say to your grandson is some bullshit about seafood?
'Hey,' I manage. There's butter in my voice. Overcome with emotion, I see your open eyes, your limbs moving. You speak, and the death-stubble on your chin trembles.
'No streetlamps, no ice-cream, no tax returns, no armatures, no orgasms.'
'Steady.' It's not like you to talk that way. I've never heard you say the word orgasm before. Or armature. What is an armature anyway? We haven't spoken for so long and the first words I say to you are hey and steady. Classic.
'And,' you continue. 'In hospital, when you held my hand, said I'd see Eddie in heaven.'
Eddie. I loved that dog. My eyes fill. I relive my eight-year-old self cradling the Labrador’s golden head. He died in my arms. You were there, Granddad. You took me to play ball afterwards, to take my mind off the dog. It didn't, but I like that you tried.
'Well, Eddie's not there.'
'Heaven's a big place. How hard did you look?'
'You've not been there, Davey.' You clear your throat. 'They don't have Internet. No phones. No Facebook. No Tinder. No sausages either.'
'What − what's it like?' I reach for your hand. 'Does someone greet you when you arrive?' What's that guy called . . . Peter? Gabriel? Genesis? 'And what about that light at the end of a tunnel people go on about, and how come they let you back anyway?'
'No light, no tunnel. No nothing. And the sound. It's like white noise. Only it's black.'
I sit up. Rub my eyes. It can't be you. Yet the meat of your hand in mine tells me you're real. But you're not back from some near-death experience. We buried you two years ago.
'About that crabmeat.' You rise from the foot of my bed and turn towards my curtains. The first grains of daylight are leeching through. 'Could murder a cup of tea too.'
'Do you miss it?' I have an urge to rush to Safeway, see if they have fresh crab. 'Certain foods, I mean.' It's unlikely they'll have fresh. I'll probably have to buy it frozen from the fishmonger. Maybe I should go now, but it's half past five in the morning. 'What about people? Do you miss people? Do you miss us?'
There's a lump the size of East Preston in my throat, because you my beloved Granddad want crabmeat and I can't bring you any. But part of me is angry that you're thinking about food. You could have asked about us. Do you know, for instance that Natalie had a baby last year? My niece is nearly one. Her eyes are like yours. Glassy. Deep. Or do you know about her without needing to be told, because you're a heavenly being?
'Not really. You get used to being alone when you're dead. But boy, I'd kill for a crabmeat sandwich with watercress on the side.'
Watercress? I don't remember you liking watercress. I thought you hated it.
'It's too early to go out. I could do you tuna on toast if you're hungry.'
'It's not about hunger, Davey.' You turn back from the window and take my hand. Your skin isn't cold, but it's not warm either. More room temperature. Did I notice that before? 'It's about not seeing, feeling or hearing anything for so long. I want to sense something, touch something. I don't even know how long it was since − '
'Two years.' Emotion rips a hole in my gut. 'Two years in February since you left us.'
'Two years of nothing. No smells, no taste. No rhythm, no television.'
'And you want crabmeat.'
'Yes, crabmeat.' Your eyes dance with new energy. 'And then you can drive me to that place near the roundabout where the ladies of the night work. You can drive, can't you?'
'What about Grandma?'
'What about her?'
'How could you? Grandma's still alive. You haven't even asked about her. Or Mum. Or Auntie Bev, or Natalie.' I let go of your hand. It feels like an oversized eraser. With fingers. And yellow nails. 'And dawn's breaking. You won't find anyone there now.'
'And you'd know, would you?'
The light is stronger. There's a soup stain on your pyjama top. And you're saying you haven't eaten anything in two years. I realise they're the same pyjamas you were wearing when you died, Worthing Hospital issue, because all of yours were in the wash. Odd that you are wearing those, not the dark suit the undertakers put you in before they lowered you into the ground.
'You'd want to experience the pleasures of the flesh, Davey, if you'd felt nothing for so long.' You pick a fleck of dirt from under your fingernails, and slip it onto the tip of your tongue.
'Are you sure you didn't go to the other place?'
'What other place?'
'Doesn't sound like heaven to me. You know, no sound, no sight, no Internet.'
'You think there's no Internet in hell?'
'Well, is there?'
'All that fire and damnation stuff's made up. There's nothing. Just nothing. Doesn't matter if you're good or bad, or if you're fuckin' Mother Teresa. There's nothing.'
Again I think you're talking out of turn. You're not like the grandfather I remember, the guy who'd clip me around the earhole for saying "blimey".
'How do you know? Maybe Mother Teresa and Eddie went to heaven.'
'You know it's all bullshit, right Davey?'
You give me one of your knowing smiles then hand me my dressing gown. 'Now. About that crabmeat sandwich. It's not going to make itself, is it?'